Devotees of the heyday of the British sitcom were always wary of versions of a spin-off from their favourite series. Far too often, these turned out to be a pale imitation of the original product and proved to be much less than satisfying.
The theatre-goer should have none of these concerns with the reincarnation of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em which finally makes its appearance at the Regent this week after a long delay due to Covid. Writer Guy Unsworth had the full approval of creator Ray Allen for this stage production of his beloved sitcom and has managed to produce not only a great homage to the talented cast from tv but a hilarious piece of comical theatre that is so enjoyable in its own right.
From the opening notes of the highly-recognisable theme tune, the audience was drawn into 120 minutes of silliness and mayhem. Its mixture of visual and physical jokes, malapropisms and tongue-twisting dialogue rapidly produced gales of laughter from the audience and there were scenes that were so humorous that those watching had to hug themselves to prevent their sides from aching.
The actual scenario is largely irrelevant as the action unfolds but the first act is based around Betty trying to tell her husband of an impending new arrival. Frank confuses this with an impending audition with the BBC of his new magic act. The supporting cast are never sure whether Frank knows about the great news delivered by the doctor and that gives great opportunities for word play and classic farcical confusion.
The penny drops at the end of the opening Act and, after the interval, the story revolves around the disastrous audition with the results of Frank’s inept DIY coming to the fore.
Michael Crawford will always be remembered for his role as the hapless F W Spencer but any worries that he would haunt the stage of this production were quickly dispelled. From his first appearance in the trademark belted raincoat and beret, Joe Pasquale dominated the stage and took over the character. The mannerisms were exactly as remembered, the stunts were all self-performed and the naivete of the character was expressed in abundance. This was definitely a Frank 2.0 as the stand-up comedian added his own flair of silliness to make the part his own and rapidly gain the audience’s love.
Sarah Earnshaw is as lovely in her part of Betty as the original Michelle Dotrice ever was. Her performance oozed class and serenity and she made her character full of loving empathy despite all the chaos around her.
Susie Blake was excellent as Betty’s disapproving mother and the script gave her every opportunity to display the comic timing perfected in her glittering career. The remaining members of the cast – Moray Treadwell, James Paterson and Ben Watson – added to the audience’s pleasure as they set up the incessant flow of gags and theatrical tricks to help Pasquale to produce a performance that was both rib-ticklingly funny but also heart-warming.
As well as writing this play, Guy Unsworth was Director and has created a wonderfully entertaining production. Special credit must be given to Simon Higlett who has designed a set that almost becomes an extra actor. The way in which the set gradually collapses around the cast brings an extra element to the laughter.
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is an unmissable piece of comic theatre that should be on every theatregoer’s CV and produced a standing ovation. It is such a pick-me-up in difficult times that it should be prescribed on the NHS. Miss it at your peril!!!
This production has a running time of approximately two hours including interval and continues until Saturday July 30th. For ticket information, contact 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/stoke